THREE young “money mules” who helped to launder thousands of pounds stolen from an elderly Cumbrian flood victim have been sentenced.
It was in October, 2016, that two articulate and persuasive fraudsters duped the unsuspecting Kendal woman out of £64,500 after phoning her land line. Never traced, they tricked her into thinking her account was compromised, and persuaded her to transfer cash – including £30,000 insurance money she received after her home was deluged during Storm Desmond the year before – into temporary dummy accounts she was led to believe were safe.
However, the money was instead fraudulently filtered down into the accounts of so-called “money mules” who benefited financially.
Almost £10,000 of the victim’s cash was moved swiftly and directly into the bank account of medical student Bilal Mohammed Afzal. That money was quickly moved on to the account of 28-year-old Open University student Mohammed Ismael Khan, £6,500 of it being converted into euros, killing the money trail stone dead.
Two days later, around £5,000 was filtered into the student bank account of budding London actor Nikhil Yauvan Reedye, now aged 20. This was also converted into euros.
Around £20,000 worth of the victim’s money was recovered and returned to her.
Speaking of having lost her savings and children’s legacy, the victim stated: “I found that the trauma of this scam has left me feeling anxious, lacking in confidence and feeling very ashamed of my gullibility.”
Afzal, Junction Road, Bolton, admitted two counts of transferring criminal property, and was jailed for 10 months. Khan, of Trippear Way, Heywood, Rochdale, admitted two converting criminal property offences, and was jailed for 16 months. Reedye, of Kennedy Close, Mitcham, Merton, was convicted of those same charges after a trial and was jailed for a year.
“You all had significant roles where offending was part of group activity,” Judge James Adkin said: “The reality is without people like you three, fraudsters would struggle. This type of fraud is epidemic.”
*In a statement summarised in court, a Cumbria police detective told how the force receives around 150 monthly referral from Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime. In the past year there had been 2,142 reported frauds from victims in Cumbria with a total value of more than £5.5 million.
“It is not uncommon for victims’ details to be shared between fraudsters so they are repeatedly targeted,” the detective stated.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Rebecca Fox said: “These three men did not make a great deal of money out of this scam.
“But by allowing their bank accounts to be used they allowed this to happen – and led to this woman losing a large sum of money.
“The victim in this case suffered a huge financial loss and it caused her a great deal of distress.”
Speaking about the issue of this type of financial fraud in general, DC Fox said scams often involved so-called “money mules” who facilitated these crimes for other people further up the chain.
She added: “Some of these people might be tempted by what they think is easy money and allow their bank accounts to be used.
“Often they are young people with a bright future ahead of them.
“But a criminal record can have a big impact on future employment and other opportunities, meaning they could be paying for these crimes for most of their lives.
“We would urge anyone tempted by being involved in this type of crime to think again.”
DC Fox said following the money trail involved dogged detective work, including applications to the courts to look at bank accounts and examinations of financial records.
She said: “This is the type of work the public don’t see but is crucial in catching those carrying out this type of crime, which has the potential to strike anywhere.
“The people who carry out these crimes don’t have to be based in Cumbria – they could do this from anywhere.
“So that poses an added challenge in bringing them to justice.”